Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Charlie Haden, Josh Haden - "Spiritual"

Unlike my main obsessions - Van Morrison and Nick Drake and various American folkies and songwriters, such as Townes Van Zandt - which are mostly under control to the extent that I don't write four blog posts on them every day, occasionally a minor obsession bubbles up and gets out of control...

Recently I have found myself listening fairly obsessively to a specific instrumental track whenever I drive my car to work, or to the supermarket. The trip to work is fine: it takes ten to twelve minutes and the track is eight minutes long, so no problems there. The supermarket, however, is less than five minutes away, which means that the track is not finished by the time I arrive at the parking lot... I then have to either cut it short, an option which even now makes me cringe, or I can choose to sit several minutes in the car while the track finishes, which often draws odd looks from other shoppers...

The tune in question is called "Spiritual" and features
Charlie Haden, bassist extraordinaire, and Pat Metheny. (Thanks to my friend Robert for sending me the track!) It is a 1996 track taken from Beyond the Missouri Sky (Short Stories).The composition is very simple, the instrumentation purist: guitar and bass, the riffing quite haunting and irresistible - like one of those lullabies that get under your skin...

On Amazon.com Sam Sutherland writes about this track:

And giving the project a sense of closure, while commenting obliquely on the generational dialogue it represents, is the luminous "Spiritual" (composed by Haden's son, Josh), an instrumental prayer that exemplifies the balance of concision and deep emotion at the heart of this exquisite triumph.

Here is another good, congenial review of the album by Debbie Koritsas...

I didn't know much about Charlie Haden until recently, but find his biography very thought provoking. He is so typically American, in his background and his pursuit of excellence, yet so very un-Bush-like in his patriotism. More voices like his and more exposure to alternative understandings of what it means to be American are sorely needed in times like these...

Here Haden talks about his archeology in music and his re-situating of American music:

There was a necessity that I felt to play music from American composers in protest to what’s going on, to make a statement that just because you’re not for everything that this administration is doing, doesn’t mean that you’re not patriotic. So I wanted to do ‘America the Beautiful’ to show everybody that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done here in this country. And inside that song, Carla put the African-American anthem ‘Lift Every Voice And Sing.’ and Ornette Coleman’s provocative ”Skies Over America” (the title track of Coleman’s first recorded orchestral symphonic work from 1972). And then there is a Pat Metheny song that I’ve always liked, which he wrote for the movie, The Falcon and the Snowman. At the end of the movie they do this song with David Bowie singing called ‘This Is Not America.’ We do ‘Amazing Grace,’ Dvorak’s ‘Goin’ Home, which is from his New World Symphony. And we also do ‘Throughout,’ which is a Bill Frisell song that my daughter Petra did with Bill on a duet record that they did (2003’s Petra Haden & Bill Frisell on True North). When I heard it I really loved it and wanted to put it on the record. We also do ‘Adagio for Strings’ by Samuel Barber, put to a chamber orchestra, which I always wanted to do.

Haden provides music streaming from his website, but snippets only. His MySpace page provides two full tracks, one from American Dreams (w. Michael Brecker), the other also from Beyond the Missouri Sky, the Grammy-winning collaborative album with Pat Metheny.

Metheny on his part offers four very different tracks on his MySpace page, a favourite being "Last Train Home" from 1987s Still Life (Talking) - another track based on familiar melodic quotes... both American, Oriental and First Nations.

Josh Haden, the composer of "Spiritual" is best known for fronting Spain, a low-key down-tempo rock ensemble. They have recorded the song on their album The Blue Moods of Spain. Josh Haden also has solo recordings to his name. Josh can be found blogging here on the excellent music sharing site Mog. And with Spain, on MySpace, here - featuring 4 songs, among them "Spiritual" (w. vocals)...

2 comments:

ctbxxiii said...

Amazing song, I agree. I heard/saw this version of it on Letterman last night and loved it....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WbYYOoDlNZc

kyoreijosh said...

I love this song-- I first heard Johnny Cash's heartrending cover of the song (here's an upload of it on youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F7_kpLa3fyI ). I came across the Metheny/Haden album a few years later and then put two and two together, realising that it was Charlie Haden's son that wrote the song.